03/20/2009, 00.00
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Beijing censors part of Vatican website in Chinese

by Wang Zhicheng
The pope's letter to Chinese Catholics remains inaccessible. But the control is practically useless. Much of the news from blocked Catholic sites - including AsiaNews - is able to pass through the firewall set up by the government.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Vatican's website in Chinese, which was launched yesterday, is visible in China almost in its entirety, but the pope's letter to Chinese Catholics remains inaccessible.

Yesterday, on the feast of St. Joseph, the Vatican made the Chinese language version of the site www.vatican.va available, with complex characters (used in Taiwan and Hong Kong) and simplified characters (used in mainland China). Sources for AsiaNews confirm that it is possible to read news about the pontiff, his speeches to the young people, the Wednesday catecheses, but his letter to Chinese Catholics made public in June of 2007 remains inaccessible. Despite the openness and caution of the document, the pontiff claims for the Holy See the last word on the appointment of bishops, and says that the Patriotic Association, the organism for controlling the Church, is based on principles contrary to the Catholic faith, essentially rejecting it. Since its publication, the letter has been banned in China, distributing it has been prohibited, and internet sites that post it have been forced to take it down. But the censorship has been pointless, because the letter circulates clandestinely in all the Catholic communities.

For years, Beijing has tried to control what information about China is reported by foreign websites, by blocking them completely or in part. The blocked sites include that of the diocese of Hong Kong, which posts many of the speeches of Cardinal Joseph Zen, a genuine champion of religious freedom in China, and the AsiaNews website. This does not change the fact that Cardinal Zen's speeches are very well known in China, or that AsiaNews is the leading news source for local Catholic sites.

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